This is the sort of song that pops up in my head unbidden. Without having heard it in a supermarket or a shopping mall. But it was ubiquitous in my parents’ cars growing up. It was songs like this that permeated and saturated my pre-teen ears whenever slumped into the backseat of Dad’s Datsun 280zx or Mom’s yellow station wagon. I could feel the bile climbing up my esophagus as an endless stream of soft rock, by bands like Firefall, America, Seals & Crofts, Captain & Tenille, Ambrosia, Bread and countless other syrupy sensitive artists sung sweetly about the biggest part of me and horses with no names — sending my impressionable self into the open arms of Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent and Led Zeppelin. And not a minute too soon.
Now, a million years later, I can appreciate bands like Firefall. There’s a distant comfort that warms my blood when a song like “You Are the Woman” courses through my veins. I find myself singing along — loudly if in the car — because I know all the words. Even if I’d always thought the lyrics were “You are the one that I always dreamed of,” not “woman I always dreamed of.” But it works either way. Like singing “kiss this guy” instead of “kiss the sky” in the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze.”
While searching for the above YouTube video, I entertained myself by playing the entire Firefall Greatest Hits album (you know, to get in the mood) and FRIGGIN’ RECOGNIZED EVERY ONE OF THESE SONGS! Jesus – this was no one-hit-wonder band! I was even bopping my head along to their 1978 hit song “Strange Way” which, I dunno if it’s the chords or what, but the way the flute and bass and keyboards blend together, it’s like a musical massage to my deepest plexus (plexii?). It’s soft-rock magic. I even, for a moment, paying attention to the lyrics, found them dare I say, profound. I mean, am I wrong?
Didn’t I hear your voice this morning, didn’t you call my name?
I heard you whisper softly, but the words were never plain.
And in your dream of darkness, I came shinin’ like the sun.
Waiting for the laughter, but the laughter never comes.
That’s a Strange Way to Tell Me You Love Me indeed. Maybe this is what happens to people when they turn 50, they start to reconnect with the bad music their parents made them listen to as kids. Today I find myself listening to Firefall; last week it was Little River Band, and yesterday, Genesis. I try to resist this bizarre nostalgia trip by playing something that came out in 2016 and this new song (I can’t even remember the name or the artist) floats right past me like yesterday’s underwear.
I just made up that metaphor, but it feels right somehow. Floating underwear is today’s white bread. Maybe tomorrow’s underwear is more apt. No, that’s exactly backward. Firefall is like yesterday’s underwear. Though clearly very white when you brought the undies home from the store, they’ve undoubtedly been through a lot — the wringer you might say. The stains are never coming out no matter how much bleach you use, and the whole thing is a thread’s breath from falling apart. Yet, despite the aging and the fraying, it’s the most comfortable piece of clothing in all your closets and drawers.
In this YouTube clip above, it’s the version of “Strange Way” that, if you know the song, is the one you will recognize. And it’s great as it is, to be sure, but during my spelunking deep into the Firefall wormhole (a situation that occurs quite often when putting together these posts) I discovered a nine-minute live version of “Strange Way” from their 2009 reunion album, creatively titled “Firefall Reunion Live.” It’s a very clean and crisp recording, and the band sounds especially tight. There’s even a Latin-break about 4 minutes in, replete with alternating percussion, drum and flute solos! The perfect journey into yacht-rock heaven!